Patients with chronic neck pain may feel a radiating, debilitating pain in the neck that circles around the back of the head and up through the skull. This pain can become so severe that patients begin to notice a decrease in quality of life because their neck and head pain prevents them from doing the things they enjoy.

If you are experiencing this type of pain, you should consult your physician to determine the cause of symptoms. Your physician will likely order tests to help understand why you are experiencing this pain and how to effectively treat your condition. There are a few tests that your physician can order. An MRI test and CT scan are the two most common tests to help physicians view your spinal area to determine any conditions that are impacting a nerve in the spinal canal and causing pain. However, some physicians might order a myelogram to get a more in-depth view of your spine to diagnose your condition.

Purpose of a myelogram test

A myelogram is an imaging test in which contrast dye is injected directly into the spinal canal in order to better reveal spine problems on an X-ray or CT scan. It is used primarily when an MRI or CT scan alone does not reveal enough information about the cause of neck pain or back pain. However, as MRI and CT scan technology have improved, the use of a myelogram has become less common.

When the dye has spread throughout the spine, a medical professional can use the X-ray or CT scan image to locate the source of neck or back pain. Conditions that can be detected through the use of a myelogram include:

If you are diagnosed with one or more of these spinal conditions, your physician will suggest treatment options based on the severity of your neck or back pain and on your level of mobility. Many spinal problems can be treated non-surgically, using conservative methods such as physical therapy or pain medicine.

Risks of myelogram test

Because a myelogram is an invasive procedure, there is slightly more patient risk than with a CT scan or MRI alone. One potential side effect is a “spinal headache,” which can occur in the hours immediately after the test if fluid leaks from the injection spot. Patients who have had migraines in the past are more susceptible to headaches following a myelogram. The problem usually can be solved with a “blood patch,” which is an infusion of a patient’s blood into the original injection spot.

Most patients experience only mild discomfort, normally associated with tenderness in the skin around the point of injection. The contrast dye can be absorbed by the body in a few days, or it can be withdrawn intravenously after the myelogram is complete.

Next step after myelogram test

If your myelogram test determines that you have a spine condition that needs to be treated, speak with your physician about the treatment options available to you. While many spine conditions can be effectively treated through conservative methods of treatment, such as pain medication and physical therapy, some more severe conditions may need a spinal surgery procedure for treatment.

For more information about your spine condition and the treatment options available to you, contact our Care Team at Laser Spine Institute. Our goal is to help you find answers about your spine condition and treatment options so you can make an informed decision about your health care needs.